This study assessed the feasibility of altering the pre-weaning vaccination schedule of the commercially available Barbervax® vaccine directed against Haemonchus contortus, to avoid the 2 priming vaccination which typically falls between lamb marking and weaning. Merino lambs (n = 175) born to maiden ewes, located in the Northern Tablelands, New South Wales, were randomly allocated to treatment groups (n = 35) and subjected to five different vaccination regimes. One group remained as unvaccinated controls and another had the full set of three priming doses. The other three groups were vaccinated only at marking and weaning receiving a double dose of vaccine at marking and/or weaning. The hypothesis tested was that reducing the interval between lamb marking and weaning to 6 weeks, and providing a double dose of vaccine at marking, weaning or both would remove the need for the second priming vaccination between lamb marking and weaning. This priming vaccination in the vaccination protocol necessitates an additional mustering of ewes with young lambs at foot and is a time consuming and costly exercise which increases the risk of mis-mothering. Blood and faecal samples were collected at frequent intervals for worm egg count (WEC), larval differentiation and H. contortus vaccine specific ELISA antibody analysis. Overall, the results supported the hypothesis, and it was found that antibody titres and WEC reductions equivalent to the registered vaccine regimen were achieved by the alternative regimens. This finding requires further investigation under a wider range of conditions. Deviation from the registered vaccination protocol would constitute off-label usage, and at this time and until further evaluations are done these deviations are not recommended.
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